Hannah Gavios, a 25-year-old who became paralyzed after falling from a 150-foot cliff while trying to escape an attacker, completed the New York City Marathon on Sunday, a turn of feat that is nothing short of a triumph for the young woman.
Using crutches, Gavios traversed 26.2 miles on behalf of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which conducts research into spinal cord injuries. “I think it’s important to raise as much money for them so they could get closer and closer to a cure,” she told Bustle before the race. “Not just for myself, but for other people who are struggling with paralysis.”
Gavios’ life-altering injury occurred during a trip to Thailand. She got lost on the way back to her hotel, and crossed paths with a local who began to harass her. While trying to escape, she fell off a cliff and broke her back. Doctors were not certain if she would ever be able to walk again.
Gavios suffered nerve damage in her shins and is unable to use her feet or toes. But with the help of braces and canes, Gavios is now mobile. “Many assume I will recover fully, but in reality this is a very long haul,” she explains on the website of “Team Reeve,” which raised money for the foundation during the marathon. “I believe hard work on my behalf and valid research toward a cure will make full recovery possible. Today, I not only accept and embrace my physical disability at its current state, but also believe this is all temporary.”
Physical exercise, Gavios told Bustle, brings her peace. “[I]t helps me find light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Video footage posted by ESPN on Sunday shows Gavios crossing the finish line.